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32 bonded labourers, counting 14 children were rescued from Pudukkottai farm

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 32 bonded labourers, counting 14 children were rescued from Pudukkottai farm

CHILDLINE 1098 Service » 1098 News » 32 bonded labourers, counting 14 children were rescued from Pudukkottai farm

In a joint effort by CHILDLINE Pudukkottai and Thanjavur along with members from the International Justice Mission (IJM) 32 bonded labourers were rescued, including 14 children from a sugarcane farm at Nambooranpatti on the outskirts of Pudukkottai. A total of 8 Scheduled Tribe families were rescued in the operation. This was the third major rescue incident of bonded labourers in the last six months in the district.

32 bonded labourers, counting 14 children were rescued from Pudukkottai farm

The parents of the children were all illiterate and relied heavily on unskilled labour. As such they could not earn sufficiently to provide for their family and were forced to work odd jobs at various places. Since their condition was so miserable that none of them had even a proper home to live in, they had no option but to take their children along with them to their work place. Here the children were obligated to do the same work as their parents so that they too could earn a little extra to add to the family income. The labourers belonged to the Irular community which is found in Kancheepuram, Thiruvannamalai and Vellore districts.

A call by some Nambooranpatti residents, claiming that bonded labourers were engaged in sugarcane cutting work in their village, was received by members of CHILDLINE Pudukkottai. Based on the information, CHILDLINE and IJM members made a field-level investigation and found that the information was true. CHILDLINE representatives visited the place immediately in the guise of activists promoting awareness on health and confirmed the matter. That day itself they even secretly video graphed the activities of the labourers.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a contractor had hired the workers after paying Rs. 4,000 to Rs 11,000 per family. The amount varied upon the number of people willing to work for a year, including children. A family could get Rs.20/- as wages with one kilogram rice, if all the members in the family worked collectively. The labourers had to work wherever the contractor assigned them their duty.

On collecting all the information about the labour-contractor and the hardships that the families were going through, CHILDLINE contacted the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) of Pudukkottai and the collector. As per the collector's direction, RDO, CHILDLINE representatives and police raided the place, rescued the families and arrested the contractors. The rescued labourers were kept in a marriage hall in Gandharvakkottai and were expected to be brought to the district collectorate.

The rescued workers said they were made to work for 12 to 14 hours per day, though they were allowed two month's holiday to attend temple festival in their villages. The labourers were verbally abused and physically tortured by their contractor which compelled them to call 1098.

The children were given counseling sessions by CHILDLINE and Pudukkottai RDO handed over financial aid to the rescued families. They were then sent to their respective home-towns after receiving release certificates and rehabilitation assistance.